If you’ve followed my posts here or viewed my photo galleries, than you know that my bride and I took a trip to the American Southwest last fall. Although it was a vacation to celebrate our anniversary, I did manage to make about 2,000 images when she wasn’t looking. Ok, she was looking and actually proved to be a terrific photo assistant, scout and critic.
So naturally, with that many photos of such a beautiful area, I had to blow some up for prominent placement around the house. I recently ordered three 11×14’s on metallic paper from AdoramaPix and waited anxiously for their arrival.
If you’ve ever printed on metallic at a reputable lab, then you know that the results can be amazing. What follows are the three images, but these views don’t do them justice, compared to the printed versions.
Two of my photos took on a 3-dimensional quality – practically leaping from the paper and I was thrilled.
So I placed a quick call to AdoramaPix customer service, where a helpful young lady looked up my order and offered to reprint the image.
In three days I had the corrected image delivered, and like the other two, it is outstanding.
This incident reminded me why I made the decision several years ago to NOT own a photo printer. Instead, I have all of my printing done outside, by two labs, the choice of which is determined based on my needs at the moment. I wanted to share the reasons for my decision with you here, and invite your feedback.
Cost. This should come as no surprise to anyone who has owned a photo printer. The Sunday flyers are full of under $100 photo printers, and often offer low priced all-in-ones that print, fax, scan, and brush your teeth. But as the razor blade companies discovered long ago, if you (practically) give away the printer, the money will be made on the ink. It’s incredible that the printer itself, which embodies electronics, mechanics, a CPU, requires assembly and testing and shipping, can be virtually free to us, while a cartridge of ink can be priced as if it contains precious emollients. I mean really, $30, $60, $100 to re-ink your printer? And to add insult to injury, most printed manufacturers ship their devices with a “starter” ink cartridge, which translates to “not full”, hence you’ll be back to the retailer who sold you the printer much sooner than you anticipated.
Outside labs on the other hand will print 4×6’s for 15 to 25 cents each, and an 8×10 might set you back $1.49. And that’s if you don’t take advantage of a special sale or order in quantity.
It’s just not economical to own a printer. And that’s without even considering the cost of paper…
Quality. We just finished talking about the low cost of printers. But of course, to get professional quality printing, the low-end units won’t deliver. You need to spend hundreds to thousands of dollars to approach the quality of a professional lab. Top quality papers and fade-proof inks also come at a cost. So, unless you are a pro and can justify these expenses, your home printer just can’t give you the quality that you can get from a lab. And if you’ve invested your time and effort and in quality camera gear in order to make a great image, why would you cheap out on the finished product?
Labs on the other hand have and maintain the equipment, inks, papers and trained personnel to produce top quality prints. Their reputation depends on it. In addition to equipment and material considerations, there’s the matter of calibration. Try as I might, I’m just not going to calibrate my laptop and desktop monitors, along with my printer successfully. Pro labs on the other hand, will correct your image if you let them, and I do, with excellent results.
Choices. Matte, satin, glossy finish? Metallic paper, gallery wraps? You just can’t come close to meeting all the options that a lab offers versus a personal printer on your own.
Convenience. OK, some might argue that having a printer in the next room is more convenient than dealing with an outside printer. And they’d be right, if the printer in the next room has ink, they have the right paper, and the nozzles are clean, the heads are aligned and no other maintenance is needed. But that’s a lot of “if’s”. My experience has been that despite The Great Recession, Murphy still has a job, and his law always kicked in whenever I needed to print. A planned quick print turned into a great deal of time spent cleaning and testing the unit, shaking ink cartridges, and worst case, running out for more ink or paper or Advil.
Photo labs however, again because they’re a business and their reputation is at stake, always have all needed supplies and perform maintenance regularly. And if they don’t, they deal with it and I don’t even know about it. In the long run, I find it more convenient to use the lab.
For my everyday printing needs, I’ll upload to Costco and I can pick-up my prints within an hour, or they’ll mail them to me. By “everyday printing”, I mean a batch of 4×6’s to give away, a 5×7 or 8×10 for the office, etc. Lest you think Costco printing to be inferior, I’ve been printing with them since my days as a 35mm film shooter with very good results. Many pro’s have said the same.
For my serious printing, it’s AdoramaPix, and I’ve already described how good they are. And by serious, I mean gallery quality, as in “I really want to show off this masterpiece” kinds of photos. I don’t print many of those, but it’s comforting to know I can, with confidence.
For me, there are just too many reasons to not own a photo printer and to rely on a lab. What do you do and why?
Please let us know your thoughts, and thanks for visiting 2 Guys Photo.
– Posted by Ed using BlogPress from my iPhone